Pokemon Go’s Johto Tour Was Brilliant, But Didn’t Understand The Playerbase

Every once in a while, Pokemon Go remembers that it was once the biggest game on the planet. Last weekend, with the Pokemon Go Tour: Johto, it remembered. A fantastic showing of how Pokemon Go can be used to tell stories and how it can jump off the regular Pokemon games to be as inventive as the other spin-offs, it also revealed that Pokemon Go still doesn’t understand itself as it reaches its sixth anniversary.

The Johto Tour’s premise was simple, but effective. The whole day was to be a retelling of either Pokemon Gold or Pokemon Silver (you chose as the event began, with minimal differences between them), taking you through each city and some major story beats. You chose your starter, caught a red (read: shiny) Gyarados, and battled gym leaders. At least, that was how it was supposed to go. The biomes also changed throughout the day, opening with the likes of Hoot-Hoot for New Bark Town, then moving through the more interesting creatures later through the day, mimicking the idea that you’d be making your way through the Johto region.


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Folks, there was a lot to do. You had to catch all the Pokemon in each biome for a specific bonus, as well as evolving a specific list of Pokemon for other bonuses. Then there was a set of quest line tasks (timed), and a set of special research tasks (untimed) to complete as well. Since this was a paid event, I’m not going to complain about there being too much content to get through, but the problem is the type of content the game is offering – content that misses the mark for a lot of the game’s playerbase.


What Niantic wanted us to do was leave the house at 10am on Saturday morning, and not go back inside until the event finished in the evening. It doesn’t matter if we walk around, drive around, or jig the hokey cokey in the street. It’s not about fitness, it’s about keeping us moving because players who move tend to play in groups, tend to do more raids, tend to buy more incubators and raid tickets, and therefore spend more money in the game. The reason Pokemon Go is so profitable is because of those players. But the reason it’s so popular is because of people like me. People who play all the time, and have played all the time since launch. It’s February. It’s cold. I have a family and I have shit to do. I can’t give up a whole day to wander around the cold streets spinning stops and getting into fictional fights with magic dogs. Just let me check my phone and play through the day.

The most annoying thing is that the game seemed to have figured this out. The biomes move around you, so you could tour the entire Johto region from your living room so long as you checked your phone enough. The timed tasks ask you to battle through the gym leaders, but in order to do that effectively, you needed to be out and about spinning stops and looking for balloons. That’s okay though, because the other research was happy to let you play from home. Catch X Pokemon, power up X Pokemon, evolve X Pokemon, all stuff you can do just by playing. As the event wore on though, this became harder.

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First you had to collect a candy – that’s just a 1km walk, so hardly a particularly stressful effort. Then there’s hatching eggs, but the distance was drastically reduced, so again that’s manageable. But to keep clearing research tasks? Over and over again, late into the storyline, when it means walking from stop to stop, only being able to store three at once, and then needing to complete those tasks before you can complete more? Why is this fun for people? In February?

So much of the event was brilliant. Unown and Heracross were right there for anyone participating, using Gold & Silver’s storyline was genius, and there were a range of events to cater to all players. But especially since the pandemic (still going on, in case you’d forgotten), for most of us Pokemon Go hasn’t involved much Go. I wish the game would finally understand that, once and for all.

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